Heroes


I’ve recently been in quite a heated debate starting here at about #67. Someone clearly prejudiced against atheists made the charge that atheism is dangerous which sparked the whole battle. One point of contention was over the issue of state laws that deny atheists the right to hold public office. His reply was to say atheists then should “move to a different fucking state” and argued some pathetic state sovereignty argument. When I showed him that such justification then would mean he’d have to be in support of segregation 50 years ago, that didn’t sit well until I finally showed the absolute hypocrisy of his position here at post #106. Unfortunately his prejudice is so strong that it didn’t take long to lapse right back to this completely discredited position.

Now what ultimately infuriated me was when he claimed atheists were just looking to pick fights. I asked if he thought Susan B. Anthony or Rosa Parks were just looking to pick a fight. Well that was simply too much for him for me to dare make a comparison to Rosa Parks, one that lead to him throwing some colorful insults at me which questioned my intelligence and also made me out to be various parts of a feminine hygiene apparatus. Now as an atheist I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t look up to and reference people like Rosa Parks. People like Rosa Parks or Homer Plessy, Mary Wollstonecraft or Margaret Sanger, Harvey Milk, Pat Tillman, and the Founding Fathers are all heroic symbols, people who at great risk took action in defense of what they believed in and spoke out against inequality and injustice. The impetus for all is the same, one group with power taking advantage of another. Now you don’t have to be gay or black or even American to be inspired by these people to take action against whatever injustice you happen to be faced with. Injustice, prejudice, and inequality are ugly truths that know no racial, ethnic, gender, religious or sexual boundary.

We take successful actions and strategies from the gay rights movement who in turn looked to the civil rights movement who in turn looked at Gandhi, the suffragette movement, abolitionists, the Founding Fathers of the US and on and on back through time to anyone in any place who stood up to oppression. What we fight for is more than simply our rights as atheists but rather the rights of a minority to liberty and justice against the possible wishes of a majority who would deny them. We’re all playing roles in one part of a much larger tapestry of mutual human respect. I think it’s important to keep this in mind when fighting our battles and know that we do share something with those people, past and present, fighting on different fronts and that we rightly should be inspired by them and claim them as our champions and for anyone who would try to deny us that through belittling our front in the battle, remind them of just how ignorant and hypocritical they are being when they do that.

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19 Responses to “Heroes”

  1. You’re absolutely right. I think sometimes I became an atheist just to experience the bigotry first hand. Theists aren’t concerned about what they call my immortal soul; they just want to censor my ideas. It would seem that the god they believe in won’t try and set me straight, so they take it upon themselves to do what they think god wants, and based on the Old Testament too, which explains why I get stoned so much.

  2. Yep!

    You might want to read what Hitchens (p. 182-184 of God is Not Great) and Harris (p. 202 of The End of Faith) have to say about Gandhi, though. I’m not sure we atheists should be tossing him in with those other greats you mentioned. He wasn’t really fighting against bigotry, per se.

  3. Not one of them was perfect. You can find fault in all of them. I know there were charges against Gandhi of such things as pedophilia and ol’ Hitch tore through the myth of the man. Jefferson owned and had relations with slaves. Everyone can be torn down for one reason or another, but they all played parts in the greater struggle. Civil disobedience and non-violent protest aren’t too shabby, nor are Common Sense or the Bill of Rights. Although I idolize Paine, I bet he literally was a pain to be around. LOL

    We’re adopting the Out campaign but that campaign is not without it’s pros and cons. There have been people highly upset and hurt at being dragged out of the closet and quite a number of mistaken Outings declared of straight people just to advance the cause. Still, I see the Out campaign as very important for atheism.

  4. I went to the link and followed it all the way through. Nice job!

    I’m always baffled as to the lack of comprehension in regards to separation of church and state. A logical person would understand that it actually works in favor of both sides.

    I admire your patience.

  5. That comment was not meant to be attributed to “Anonymous” even though I am. Should be Soitgoes.

  6. Soitgoes -

    I was getting set to do a mea culpa. I have a theory that whenever you see the name “anonymous” pop up on a blog, that the guy/girl is going to be turd slinger. I was thus amazed at the tone of your comment.

    But your follow-up explained it all.

    Philly Chief (rather enlightened for such a hot-head lately) said:

    “Not one of them was perfect. You can find fault in all of them.”

    I don’t want to be judged for my whole life. But I know I am. It’s inescapable. At least, hopefully, more weight will be given to things I do closer and closer to the end.

  7. Absolutism is a problem. You see christians play both sides of it. The bible mentions Bethlehem, there is a real Bethlehem, so then all of the bible is true. Evolution makes a lot of claims, one element of the process gets refuted, then all of Evolution is bunk. It’s nuts.

    Hey, JFK was an adulterer. Does that give you any fewer goosebumps when you hear recordings of him saying “Ich bin ein Berliner”, “We do these things not because they’re easy but because they are hard” or “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”? I hope not.

    btw, “Ich bein ein Berliner was incorrect. It should have been Ich bin Berliner. Ein Berliner refers to a donut, so he was saying he was a donut, but thankfully the Germans cut him some slack. :)

  8. I thought it was “jelly doughnut”, but that tells you something about my German! And I don’t hold it against Kennedy.

    If at least 2/3 of our Presidents were not womanizers, then I’ll eat a jelly doughnut on moon.

  9. The ones we got in Nurnburg were a sort of fritter filled with jam.

    A “Nurnburger” is a type of sausage (wurst) usually made more at the Christmas season.

  10. Mmmmm…. I love ethnic holiday foods. They’re always the best. My wife is from the Dominican Republic. At Christmas (and ONLY then) they make these things called pasteles. It’s KIND OF like a tamale, but totally blows tamales away. So good.

  11. The only time I ever heard about the donut thing was HS German class. Here I thought I knew something rare, but it’s common knowledge. Balls. :(

    As for ethnic, I’ve been very fortunate to enjoy my wife’s mother’s food. Traditional Japanese. New Years is the big food holiday for Japanese. Obviously Thanksgiving means nothing to them.

    I’ll try to remember “pasteles”.

  12. Evo said: Mmmmm…. I love ethnic holiday foods. They’re always the best.

    That’s because you weren’t in my family. My grandmother used to make potato latkes for Chanukah. Basically, her recipe called for one part potato, three parts Crisco. Her matzo ball soup called for one part matzo meal, and three parts, maybe even four, of Crisco. Whatever ethnic food we ate at her house would leave us belching for weeks, and there’s nothing worse than recycled Crisco.

  13. Heroism is so often someone saying, ‘Dammit, I’ve had ENOUGH!” and they act.

    I think some woman said of Gandhi that he had no idea how much it cost others so that he could lead the simple life. Well, I have heard it said that it takes a minimum of forty people with their feet on the ground to support one man with his head in the clouds.

    Ethnic traditions and meals can be good or frightening. My family is military, so we’ve picked up persons by marriage from all over and our traditions are often, well, nontraditional.

    Have to say it, though, some of the best I’ve eaten was when I was a teen and I acted as a “Shabbas Goy” for some people my father knew. They were quite secular, but when their orthidox (and then some!) families came to visit from New York they needed a Shabbas Goy. I also stayed Sunday, and the mothers would cook. The meals…what teenage boy with an appetite would pass up something like that?

    One of my neighbors recalls his days as a boy and young man…his mother is from Ireland and he remembers her Irish culinary skills (his words, not mine).

    He and his brother would come home from school and their mother would have been preparing dinner, invite them to try a sample, and ask how it tasted. If they reported a taste at all, she reckoned it needed boiled for another two hours.

    One of the best, most memorable Thanksgiving meals I’ve eaten was 1967 in Viet Nam. “Truce” my ass. I was one of several who stayed with wounded to await relief and evacuation, and, well, it took a while. A young sergeant named Frankie Parker crawled to our position and informed us that it was Thanksgiving, and he had a canteen in his hand. Said he’d saved it for a special treat knowing that we might be out a while. Aforementioned canteen was one of two that he had that had been filled back at base and wasn’t from a paddy and laced with purification tablets. It was pure nectar as far as we were concerned.
    It was overly warm, the additives made it feel like you were swallowing a bunch of hacksaw blades, but no one and nothing had pissed or shit in it, it didn’t have animalcules swarming through it. It was one of the greatest kindnesses ever shown me, those two swallows I was allotted.

  14. Valuable perspective from Ex and Sarge. Not all ethnic food is good and sometimes clean water is enough to be thankful for.

    I do think that there are both people who are necessary to support these figures of history as well as others sometimes who’ve done similar things and have gone unknown. The ones we do know up and hold up no doubt develop a mythology around them as time goes on. I have mixed feelings about that, for I can see how despite the blemishes, some people are valuable as symbolic heroes to inspire future generations. Of course this can also be a recipe for religions.

  15. I have read that in the 1820′s John Marshall’s grandnephew was planning on writing a book about the Glorious Revolution and wanted him to tell him what they were really like.

    Marshall wouldn’t cooperate, told him that these Heros took pains to hide what they really were before the revolution, and used many misdirections afterwards to cover what they really wanted. The public saw what those figures wanted and now only saw that picture, so let it be.

    Philly, in your fair city was a newspaper called the Aurora, run by one of Benjamin Franklin’s grandsons, Benjamin Franklin Beach. The things in the pages of that publication do make you wonder. Washington is said to have read it, and would invariably slap it down and bellow, “DAMN!” and be rather hard to get along with for the rest of the day. He died two weeks before he had to appear in front of congress to answer charges about British involvement in his administration. His widow and sons burned a bunch of papers immediatly after his death.

    Kindly old “Father Abra’m” was a corporatist and statist. It is said that in 1890 a friend of his son, Robert, dropped by and saw Robert reading a stack of papers, which when he finished one would be thrown into the fire. On being asked, he told his friend that these were his fathers papers released to him twenty five years after his death. The freind cried out, “Robert! For the sake of history…!” And Robert is said to have replied that that was why he was burning them; for the sake of history.

  16. Sorry, Marshall’s grandnephew wanted to know what the “Founding Fathers” were REALLY like.

  17. I believe it. Sometimes the myth of a person becomes too powerful and too important to tarnish with pesky things like the truth. As I’ve said, I have mixed feeling about this.

  18. I have a friend with whom I reenact on occasion, she is both a psychologist and psychiatrist, teaches at some university in upstate New York.

    She made several discoveries after she started, first, on a personal level, was that she was having a ball and that we reenactors weren’t gun and war loving red-necked, semi-literate trailor trash who at present must be deplored and tolerated when we crawled out of or tar pits to live our fantasy life. Also, SHE CAN ACTUALLY COOK…as long as it’s for ten to thirty people and over an open fire. Her daughters actually used to cry when they found out she’d cooked a meal and they were expected to eat it. She STILL can’t cook in a modern kitchen, but her daughters tell me they can’t believe their mother is actually doing this.

    She has also found that history isn’t necessarily what the history books say.

    She told me that she has investigated the backgrounds of several of the leading figures of the civil war, looked at their lives, and was mighty glad that charactor was quite a priority for them. Things could have gotten hairy, itherwise.

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